Meet the Traveller: Gina Joseph

*Meet the Traveller is a series on Potli Baba, of conversations with people who have been inspired by travel.*

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Potli Baba’s note: First off, this post has been a year in the making, because I was preoccupied with less important things like life and work. Since my first interview with her, I’ve reconnected with Gina to understand how her year has been so far; from exhibitions at Kala Ghoda and Singapore, to being one of the 25 chosen for the Milestone Makers Programme – a collaboration between Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center and Startup India – she’s had a busy, enriching year.

Dear Gina, thank you for your patience. A year is a long time to wait for a conversation with you to be published! 

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The word ‘Stories’, inked just below her wrist, plays hide and seek with the clinking silver bangles as she scribbles her answers in my notebook. Head bent in concentration, she pauses from time to time to tuck her hair behind her ear and think of the various stories she has gathered over the years travelling to different parts of India, working with remote tribal communities to create beautiful pieces of quintessential Indian jewellery. Meet Gina Joseph, Founder and Creator of Zola. Much like the pieces she creates, Gina’s evolution as an entrepreneur challenges convention. From the craft of advertising to the craft of creating stories through beads, metal and fabric, what a journey it’s been.

“It just happened by chance”, she says. Zola started off as a piece for her design project and quickly grew to become a name familiar to women who want to make a statement with simple, elegant accessories. Combining her new-found love for creating magic through fabric, metal, leather and colours with her wanderlust was an unplanned dream come true. There were hurdles along the way – the initial struggle, finding investors and yes, brands plagiarising her designs – but she’s only emerged all the stronger for it. Recently, she got herself inked a second time, inspired by The Great Wave off Kanagawa created by Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai, with a mountain and a red full moon-like dot over it. “When an immovable object meets an insurmountable force… the wave and the mountain. So, however tough life gets and pushes you, you have to stand strong. That’s my learning in my years of existence.”

Travel is how Gina unwinds, recharges and discovers local art forms as well as artisans. She loves planning for trips that she will take one day and wills the universe to make them happen. Here she is, sharing her story.

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Gina 2
Picture Courtesy: Gina Joseph.

Describe yourself in one word. Story-Collector.

Where do you live? Chennai.

Where have you travelled to till date? USA, Kenya, Sweden, Oslo and Singapore. In India, Kashmir, the heartland of Orissa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu for Zola workshops. I’ve travelled most of North India too, but am yet to explore North East and hope to do this at the earliest.

Travel to you is: A form of meditation. I can’t sit still and meditate for long, so travel is my escape that enriches me at every step.

Five things your travel bag will always have: Phone, power bank, medicines, money and Vaseline. 

Wanderer or tourist? Wanderer.

Mountains, beaches, deserts, jungles, nature or adventure sports? Beaches, jungles and nature.

Plan your own travel or get someone to do it for you? I plan it all.

What’s your favourite journey to date? Your travel memory? Every journey lets me discover something new about myself, so can’t name just one.  

If you were a city/town/country/place, which would you be and why? India. For the vibrant colours, different cultures, history, food and stories. 

How has travel inspired you? Travel has been the best teacher and inspiration to me. It’s made me stronger emotionally, mentally and also a lot more open to things in life.

Complete this sentence: If the world could fit into your palm, you would Well, I wouldn’t want to fit the world in my palm. Just the fact that I am such a small part of this world is exciting and humbling at the same time… so let me explore it one day at a time.

Meet the traveller: Sumitra Senapaty

*Meet the Traveller is a series on Potli Baba, of conversations with people who have been inspired by travel.*

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Two years ago, I discovered a new way to travel – one that doesn’t involve depending on friends, family or acquaintances to find the time to holiday with you. This modern marvel of mankind was called Women on Wanderlust (WOW) – an organisation that put together trips exclusively for women. My first trip with WOW was to Leh/Ladakh – a week with 15 women who I had never before met in my life. It was as scary as it was exciting, but the apprehension was unnecessary – the trip was flawless in every way. I’ve travelled with them again since, and it’s been as good.

Women on Wanderlust is Sumitra Senapaty’s brainchild, started almost 10 years ago. She went on a drive across New Zealand on her own and met a bunch of women from the UK, which is when she was introduced to the concept of groups of women who’ve never met each other before travelling together. Today, WOW does at least 30 trips across India and the world every year.

I had the good fortune of connecting with Sumitra recently, and had an extremely enjoyable conversation with her. She radiates warmth and kindness, and is a joy to talk to because she has so many stories from all her travels across the globe. Here she is in conversation with Potli Baba.

Sumitra at Mt. Sinai, Egypt
Picture courtesy: Sumitra Senapaty. Her photograph definitely captured the spirit of travel way better than mine did!

Describe yourself in one word. Wanderer.

Where do you live? Sometimes in Delhi, more often in Bangalore; that is, when I am not wandering to destinations the world over.

Where have you travelled to till date? USA, UK, Turkey, Morocco, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Spain, Croatia, Poland, Austria, Oman, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Hong Kong, Borneo, Singapore, Seychelles, Australia, New Zealand, France, South Africa, Bhutan, Namibia, Tanzania, Kenya, China, Japan, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Ladakh, Gujarat, Kerala, Rajasthan and many other parts of India.

Travel to you is: My passion, my life. I am obsessed with travel.

Five things your travel bag will always have: Shades, camera, headlamp, set of clothes and cell phone. 

Wanderer or tourist? Clearly a wanderer and a traveller, not a tourist.

Mountains, beaches, deserts, jungles, nature or adventure sports? A bit of all I think; I am greedy! 

Plan your own travel or get someone to do it for you? I like to plan it myself.

What’s your favourite journey to date? Your travel memory? Wandering through the Galapagos is my all-time favourite. The close encounters with the birds and animals are unbelievably touching.  

If you were a city/town/country/place, which would you be and why? The continent of Africa, because of its diversity of life and awesome flora and fauna. 

How has travel inspired you? Travel has inspired me to take life as it comes, with the highs and the lows, to adjust to circumstances, to make the best of the times, to appreciate and care for Earth. 

Complete this sentence: If the world could fit into your palm, you would be a gypsy.